Previewing the Buccaneer linebackers for 2010
Amongst the Tampa Bay roster invitees for training camp next month are 10 linebackers, some with more important roles on the team than others. But who will be donning the pewter when the Browns arrive at Raymond James Stadium in Week 1?

Beginning with the incumbent starters, Barrett Ruud in the middle, Quincy Black on the strong side and Geno Hayes on the weakside. The latter two entered their first year as starters in 2009 and did a pretty good job based on the change in defensive schemes and lack of pass rush up front.

Hayes is your typical under-sized hard-nosed former Seminole linebacker and the Bucs have had a good one of those on their roster since 1995 with first Derrick Brooks and now Geno. Whilst comparing the two is unfair of course, there is little doubt that Hayes has the chance to be one of the best in the league with the potential he has shown so far in his two-year career.

Black looked lost under Jim Bates' scheme early in 2009 but came on strong in the final few weeks as Raheem Morris took over the defense. And Barrett Ruud simply has to have a better season based on better players up front. He was constantly having to shake off pulling guards as neither Hovan or Sims could handle their blockers, leaving Ruud totally exposed in the middle. And he's playing for a new multi-year contract too.

Adam Hayward and Niko Koutouvides both return but their primary roles are on special teams. Hayward does see some back-up time behind Black and Hayes but he has already over-achieved as a 6th rounder out of smalltown Portland State.

Jon Alston arrives from Oakland as another potential special teams standout, whilst the Bucs used two draft picks on fellow head-hunters, Cory Grimm and the highly-touted Dekoda Watson. The latter has been tearing up minicamps and all the coaches want to see him on the field in pre-season games.

Rico McCoy and Lee Robinson complete the 10-pack but both will be telling their friends in future years they were once in Buccaneer training camp. I'd expect one of Koutouvides or Alston to join them, along with Cory Grimm if he didn't make the practice squad after the final roster cuts.

You've been great - enjoy the Specials

Paul Stewart, TBO.com, June 2010